Time Warner Cable CEO: Content, Distribution Firms Must Work Together

10:52 AM PST 06/01/2011 by Georg Szalai

Highlighting once again that high-speed Web services have become cable's core product, Glenn Britt says: "People are telling us that if they were down to their last dollar, they would drop broadband last."


NEW YORK - Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said Wednesday that content and TV distribution companies should focus more on working together instead of arguing over retransmission consent fees, cable companies' iPad apps and the like.

He also acknowledged that cable operators are less media companies now than in the past amid their growing telecom, particularly broadband, businesses.

Speaking at a Sanford C. Bernstein investor conference here, Britt said: "We have become less of a TV company than we were previously," and more of a provider of infrastructure.

Echoing other cable executives, he said broadband has taken pay TV's spot as the industry's basic service. Cable players have lost video customers to their competition.

"It has become our primary product," Britt said about broadband service. "People are telling us that if they were down to their last dollar, they would drop broadband last."

In the context of TWC's much-discussed iPad app, which provides video service in the home and which some network owners have opposed, Britt said distribution and content companies should work more hand-in-hand.
 
Making the app work outside of homes will be much more complicated as the public Internet would be involved, and TV networks generally don't own the rights use their content that way, according to Britt. "It's going to be a while" for that to happen, he said.

Once that happens down the line, Britt said cable operators should charge users more for subscriptions that provide such mobile access to video.

Asked by interviewer and Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett if pay TV has become too expensive as Moffett has suggested, Britt said it is "still quite a bargain" compared with other forms of entertainment, but "a certain segment" is hurting.

Citing a bifurcating economy, he said "there are a bunch of people who are really strapped...they want [pay TV], but they can't afford it."

This is another area where it would be better for content and distribution companies to "work collaboratively" to scale down, Britt said. In that context, he mentioned TV Essentials, an economy package TWC has been testing and plans to roll out.

Asked about retrans, Britt reiterated that TWC does not see it as a free market, but again called for civilized behavior.
"We are not, by the way, saying we shouldn't pay," he highlighted though. "We shouldn't have public fights about it."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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